SOME DANCERS find their mastery by executing step after step in the studio. For Amalia Hernandez, the crucial pivot toward becoming a dance legend and cultural icon required countless steps to the far corners of her country. In such movement, she found her revolutionary muse.
Today, on the centennial of her birth, Google celebrates Hernandez — the pioneering dancer and choreographer who founded Ballet Folklorico de Mexico — with the brilliant colors of movement in a home-page Doodle.
In the ’20s, young Amalia, who was born in Mexico City, received formal ballet training in the home, but although she had the discipline to devote herself to the art’s rigors, her sense of soulful expression was finding no home.
Hernandez moved on to modern dance, which she taught at the Fine Arts National Institute, as well as Spanish flamenco. Yet for her, their formality did not yield deep artistic fertility.
Her journey to represent Mexican culture meant moving about her native nation, from coastlines to the mountain ridgelines. In the lands of her people, she pursued a creative excavation that fed her soul.
Through travel, she found indigenous connection. Her inspired emotional ties led her to weave the fabric of Mexican folk dance with the tight threads of her formal training. The resulting artistic tapestry was her new dance style: baile folklorico.
In 1952, with just eight dancers, Hernandez founded the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. Two years later, they kicked off their national TV broadcasts, which spawned North American tours that would begin to make Hernandez a cultural ambassador to the world. By the end of the decade, now on the path to international prominence, they would represent Mexico in the Pan American Games, and then at the Paris Festival of Nations in the next decade.
Ballet Folklorico became more than a company; it was an artistic movement. Tens of thousands of students are said to have studied at its school at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City.
Amalia Hernandez Navarro died in 2000, at age 83. The beauty and brilliance of her own creative revolution lives, celebrating her nation’s indigenous diversity the globe over.